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  1. Bradley-Springer, Lucy PhD, RN, ACRN, FAAN

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It is perfectly okay to write garbage-as long as you edit brilliantly.


C. J. Cherryh


I am a better editor than writer; always have been, just did not know what I was doing until late in my career. And, as it turns out, that was probably for the best, because, as the quote above implies, you (as in you, the author) can fix terrible writing.


During my years as the Editor-in-Chief of JANAC, I learned a lot about editing and even more about writing (Bradley-Springer, 2008; 2015; 2018; 2019). Now that I am retiring from JANAC, I feel obliged to share a bit more about writing and editing in hopes that you will benefit from my experiences. The following focuses on writing. However, no amount of writing expertise can substitute for good science/logic/reasoning about relevant topics, which is your first concern. After that, you need to get your good work published and that is what this editorial is about.


Most Important

Tip: Make the editor happy. Every journal has guidelines for authors. At JANAC, these are called Information for Authors (https://journals.lww.com/janac/pages/default.aspx). Guidelines cover (almost) everything you need to get published in a journal. They cover publication ethics, author expectations, how (or if) your paper will be reviewed, types of papers considered, topics of interest to the journal, formatting expectations, and details about what needs to be included in your paper. I have read a lot of these, and I know they can be boring, but you have to read them. At least once. But probably more than once. Really. And then you need to do what the guidelines ask you to do. In addition to the Information for Authors, JANAC also has a JANAC Style Guide, which provides further information and examples (https://journals.lww.com/janac/Documents/JANAC%20style%20guide%202019.pdf) and the JANAC Peer Review Forms, which let authors know what reviewers are prompted to assess in each kind of submission. You can find the link to the peer review forms at the end of the Information for Authors, so be sure to read to the end. Really, I mean it.


Journal editors spend a lot of time developing writer guidelines and other writing assistance because they want to help authors, and they do not want to waste their time (or the time of reviewers) reading papers that do not meet the journal's basic criteria. Editors write the guidelines and they know what they wrote; they will know if you did not do what they asked.


Be Ethical

Tip: In some cases, being unethical is also illegal and can put you at risk of losing your job, paying a fine, or going to jail. Publication ethics are covered in a number of places that are easy to find on the Internet. You should understand the publication ethics of authorship, plagiarism (including self-plagiarism), duplicate submission (do not do it), redundant publication (really, do not do it), salami slicing, and conflict of interest.


Ethical expectations for each journal are published in the Author Guidelines, so I am not going to go over them here, but I do want to discuss authorship. According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (2018), authors must: (a) make substantial contributions to the concept, design, development, implementation, and/or analysis of the project; AND (b) write the paper or critically revise it; AND (c) give final approval before journal submission; AND (d) agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. If someone in your team does not meet all of these criteria, s/he is not an author.


Once you know who qualifies as an author, you need to decide the order in which they will be listed on submission, which is also the way they will be displayed when published. Your team should make this decision before you start writing to prevent arguments during paper development. This is so important that, once submitted to JANAC, the order and number of authors cannot be changed without the written approval of all authors.


Be Succinct

Tip: Concise, well-written papers are more likely to be read. Editors want to publish excellent papers that provide important information for their readers AND they do not want to waste space. The two are not mutually exclusive. Critical editing can help.



Be careful when presenting information from other sources. Paraphrasing is almost always a better choice than a direct quote because it keeps the flow of your writing style moving and will usually take less space. For instance, the following is a direct quote. Because it is more than 40 words long, it must be offset in a separate paragraph.


Quotation marks should be used to indicate the exact words of another. Each time you paraphrase another author (i.e., summarize a passage or rearrange the order of a sentence and change some of the words), you need to credit the source in the text. (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 15, p. 15)


Compare that to this paraphrased passage: Quotation marks must be used when quoting the exact words of another author; the original source must be cited when paraphrasing or directly quoting already-published text (American Psychological Association, 2010). Paraphrasing uses 17 fewer words, never requires an offset paragraph, and covers the same information.


Cut, Cut, Cut

Provide all needed information; if information or words or phrases or paragraphs are not needed, get rid of them. Be brutal. Here are my rules.


*Use personal pronouns to be clear. Do not write, the current study showed, use we found instead. I know this goes against everything you learned about professional writing, but times have changed!


*Do not make the simple complex. Consider this sentence: In order to assure the possibility of a truly randomized sample to ensure validity, the investigators used a computer-generated process (do not laugh, it happens), which would be much better as: We randomized participants using a computer-based process.


*Be suspicious of sentences that start with "There," especially if followed by "that." This: There are a number of issues that need to be addressed, would be better as: A number of issues need to be addressed.


*Get rid of redundancy. Instead of both women and men, use women and men. And you do not need the italicized words in these phrases: so as to, in close proximity, briefly summarize, the reason is because, absolutely essential, have been previously found, previous studies, four different groups, a total of 68 participants, is considered to be, and nursing care activities. I could go on.


*Use acronyms, but only if they are (a) used more than three times in the paper, (b) defined on first use, (c) used consistently after definition, and (d) commonly used in health care literature. JANAC allows some words to be used without being defined (e.g., HIV, AIDS, ANAC). A list of accepted acronyms can be found in the JANAC Style Guide.


*Use short words that are easier to understand. My personal favorites are: effective, not efficacious; use, not utilize; regardless, not irregardless (spellcheck does not even like this one); and stated or said, not endorsed.


Take-Home Messages

Editors need and want your papers, but they can not publish poorly written work. Initial submissions of well-written, concise, clear, and relevant papers are more likely to make it to review and publication. Remember: editors and reviewers can not read your mind (be clear and concise), and author guidelines matter (read them).




American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed) Washington, DC: Author. [Context Link]


Bradley-Springer L. (2018). A letter for the editor. The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 29(5), 621-623. doi:10.1016/j.jana.2018.06.007 [Context Link]


Bradley-Springer L. (2019). Guideline gravity. The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 30(4), 381-382. doi:10.1097/JNC.0000000000000106 [Context Link]


Bradley-Springer L. (2015). Predatory publishing and you. The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 26(3), 219-221. doi:10.1016/j.jana.2015.02.003 [Context Link]


Bradley-Springer L. (2008). Why don't you write? The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, 19(5), 331-334. doi:10.1016/j.jana.2008.07.001 [Context Link]


International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. (2018). Recommendations for the conduct, reporting, editing, and publication of scholarly work in medical journals. Retrieved from http://www.icmje.org/search/?q=authorship[Context Link]